Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Scandinavian tour that wasn't

Here's an interesting item from the New York Clipper that provides new insight into Houdini's ill-fated Scandinavian tour of 1913. It also challenges conventional wisdom about exactly where Houdini was when his tour came to its sudden end. But we'll get to that.

New York Clipper, July 12, 1913

Of course, most of what was announced did not happen. That's because on July 17 Houdini's mother died and he immediately returned to New York (breaking his contract which had consequences as you'll read below). The three month Scandinavian tour was canceled and so too much of the tour of France. Houdini did honor his commitment to the Moss circuit in the UK the following year. Notice the mention of an "entire two hour show." I can only assume this is his Grand Magical Revue. It's interesting to see it was planned this early.

What's strange is the mention of Houdini playing Stockholm, Sweden, on July 16-18. Biographers have all put Houdini in Copenhagen when he received the news of his mother's death on July 17. That ain't Sweden!

It's possible plans changed or the paper got it wrong. But the below article from the New York Evening World announcing Houdini return to New York also says he was "called from Sweden." By the way, the "double" who was arrested was Jim Collins.

New York Evening World, July 29, 1913

Despite this, the evidence for Copenhagen is strong. Milbourne Christopher in Houdini The Untold Story has many details that confirms the location, including the fact that Princes Aage and Axel of the Danish Royal Family attended Houdini's show.

In 1990 Danish magician and collector Johan Ahlberg visited the Royal Library archives and uncovered newspaper accounts that confirmed Houdini's 1913 appearance in Denmark. Houdini opened on July 16 at the Cirkus Building in central Copenhagen. He was scheduled to give a special matinee the following day, July 17, but moments before the show he received the news of his mother's death and collapsed.

The Cirkus Building still stands today. So it was in the building that Houdini began and ended his 1913 Scandinavian tour, and received the worst news of his life.

UPDATE: Our friend David Merlini of The House of Houdini has provided information on another hitherto unknown stop on this tour. On August 16 Houdini was scheduled to appear with the Beketow Circus in Budapest! This would have marked his first and likely only professional appearance in his home town.



  1. That photograph of Harry. It looks like it was from the session where he was photographed with Burton King. The dyed hair, winter coat, and leather gloves all match. He looked dapper and wasn't about to waste his elegant appearance on just one photo with Mr. King.

    1. Yes, I think you're right about that. I believe this came from a movie magazine. I just thought it worked here, even though it's HH well after 1913.

  2. The following may be of interest, he appeared for the first time under the legal name of Harry Houdini, during this voyage:

    1. Oh, great detail. Thanks. Notice that Billboard clipping also says he's going "direct to Sweden".

  3. That it does. I have the original Billboard clipping in my display case.